Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Recently on a message board I read a lot of comment about how some people don’t like Ben Stiller. Frankly, I just didn’t get it because while there are some movies with Stiller I didn’t like, there have been plenty I did. Most of the discussion had to do with why people were not going to see the new release of Tropic Thunder. One of the things I I didn’t realize about the movie was the magnitude of the ensemble cast. Tropic Thunder has a myriad of cameos, and others that are an active part of this movie. Most know about Jack Black, Ben Stiller, and Robert Downy Jr., but we haven’t heard about others that contribute, whether Danny McBride who is also in the current release of Pineapple Express, the talented Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey to the surprise for me, in a major role, Tom Cruise. This truly is an ensemble cast and for those basing their views as to whether they attend or not just on the fact that Ben Stiller is in this movie is missing out, missing out on a quite surprisingly good, funny, and meaningful movie.

The concept of Tropical Thunder is that a group of actors are in Vietnam making a movie based on one of the experiences of Four Leaf Tayback played by Nick Nolte. The spoiled, over paid, self serving actors in the film are so competitive with screen time that the movie and its production costs are way over budget. Each actor in the film has had previous issues and those issues, whether drug addiction, to recent movie flops has to learn to work together. When the production seems to be a failure, there is a suggestion that unbeknownst the actors in the film, that they be taken into the jungles of Vietnam, and be placed in a live situation. In the process, things go terribly wrong, and between drug dealers and being lost, the actors in Tropical Thunder have to grow up, look out for each other, and come to the rescue of one of their lost compatriots. Along the way, while vulgar and gory, we have a really good time.

One of the issues related to a movie like this is the issues faced in the movie. A group of top name actors has to work together, sharing the screen, and contributing to the crafts of each other. It is here Ben Stiller shows some talent, not in his acting, although it is fun and good, but in his direction. Stiller understands the concepts he is portraying, he is living with it when working with the cast he has playing the parts. In many ways, the making of Tropic Thunder is much like the real life experience portrayed in the movie. What transpires though is that this cast comes together, they come together in such a way that there are no stars, and that helps make the movie fun.

One of the strong themes is that comes through with Tropic Thunder is the importance of working together, using the gifts of each individual, and in the process making sacrifice for those loved. There is a strong theme of each person coming to recognize who they are. It is here I enjoyed this movie in a special way. As the characters develop, we see success not only take place on the screen, but we can learn from that and apply it to our own lives.

There is another area I have to comment on. I have to admit, due to my own experience of working with the Mentally Ill in the past, I have not been a fan of Tom Cruise because of his past comments on this disease. If I had known he was in the movie as prominently as he is, I may not have seen it. That said, it would have been a shame. Tom Cruise is wonderful in this film; in fact, it may be one of the most fun parts I have seen Cruise play and it may honestly be one of his best jobs of acting. While playing the part of movie mogul Less Grossman, we see that he cares about few things more than a profit margin, and this foul mouthed, evil handed mogul adds fun, fun, fun, to the movie. We see him as the evil figure behind all of the danger and misfortunes within the filming of Tropic Thunder, and he is the epitome of selfishness. If not for a lack of respect towards the comedy medium, Cruise could be considered for an Oscar in a supporting role he is so good in Tropic Thunder.

Tropic Thunder is a fun time at the movies, with some valuable lessons about getting along, becoming a team, and working together for a common good. As a pastor there are all kinds of applications that I found similar to leading a church, even in its rough humor there are lessons. From the opening theatrical trailers that resemble something out of Tarintino’s Grindhouse movies, to the closing dance sequence with Less Grossman, this movie is far more than I expected. It will likely be more than most viewers expect and that is a good thing for Tropic Thunder.

On a scale of 1 – 10, for the 10 primary characters who find out about themselves, minus the evil Les Grossman, I give a unexpected and enjoyable 9.

To see a trailer of the movie Tropic Thunder double click on the following video, if the video don't appear, just click on the following link:

The following video has Ben Stiller talking about the movie. Double click on the video to see, if you don't see the video, just click on the link:

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Patrick Roberts said...

just seeing RDJ posing in the movie posters cracks me up... that guy's got a knack for not taking himself too seriously

Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

I agree RDJ does a great job in this movie. Well worth seeing just to see him, but so much better than that.